Kori Bernards is stepping down as Universal Pictures’ senior vice president of communications after seven years as the studio’s top spokeswoman.
She is not leaving for another job, but will instead take time off to be with family, according to a memo sent to staff. A replacement will be named in the coming weeks.
The longtime media strategist has been with Universal through various leadership shifts, a change in corporate ownership following General Electric’s 2009 sale of NBCUniversal to Comcast and periods of box office upheaval, and has helped the studio stay on message as it reemerged this year with a string of blockbuster hits such as “Jurassic World” and “Pitch Perfect 2.”
Tenacious, but personable, Bernards came to Hollywood having been well schooled in spin and deflection through years in the political trenches. She served as communications director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) in the 2004 elections cycle, and was press secretary for then House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt.
Prior to taking her job at Universal, Bernards was VP of corporate communications for the Motion Picture Association of America, working on hot-button issues such as piracy and copyright protection.
In the staff memo announcing her departure, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Jeff Shell praised Bernards for helping him learn the ropes in his new job.
“Kori has been a key adviser and friend, providing guidance and support that I am grateful for,” he wrote. “She is one of the most passionate, decent and dedicated professionals I have ever worked with and I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do next.”
Bernards added: “I’ve always been incredibly honored to represent and fight for our company, our executives, and each of you. Together, we have accomplished amazing things, and I will always be grateful that I could do my part.”
The full memo from Jeff Shell:
Ron, Donna and I wanted to share with you today that after seven years as Universal Pictures chief communications strategist and lead spokesperson, our friend and colleague Kori Bernards has decided to leave the company. As Universal’s head of internal and external global communications, Kori has represented the company on every issue confronting us: Business initiatives, films in development, box office reporting, financial, production and distribution relationships, corporate philanthropic events and all the rest. She’s been a part of many Universal films and navigated countless news stories, giving no less than 100% to Universal on every level.
Since 2008, Kori has helped shepherd the studio through some of its toughest times and into some of its best. She deserves enormous credit for having shaped the positive perception that surrounds our company and our executive team today—our most profitable and best year at the box office in Universal’s 103-year history.
During my first two years as Chairman of the Filmed Entertainment Group, Kori has been a key advisor and friend, providing guidance and support that I am grateful for. She is one of the most passionate, decent and dedicated professionals I have ever worked with and I know she will succeed in whatever she chooses to do next.
Kori’s departure will be a loss for so many of us here.
As Donna put it to me: “We will miss Kori’s exceptional skills as a communications strategist, and we’ll miss the depth of her relationships throughout this company and the larger community. I know whatever she does next will be worthy of her passion, dedication and abilities.”
Finally, Kori wanted to share this short note with all of you: “It has been an extraordinary experience to work at Universal Pictures and in particular, to work with the wonderful people of Universal Pictures. I’ve always been incredibly honored to represent and fight for our company, our executives, and each of you. Together, we have accomplished amazing things, and I will always be grateful that I could do my part. But for some time now, I’ve wanted to step back, take a break, and figure out the next chapter of my life and of my family’s life. And now I’m ready to do exactly that. I will miss coming to the Lot every day and working with all of you. But I know that the tremendous work of this studio—especially of its first-class Communications Team—will continue.”
While it is difficult to replace Kori, we hope to make an announcement about a new head of communications for our company in the coming weeks. Kori will be staying on for the transition and will continue to serve as an advisor as we move through this process.
Please join Donna, Ron and me in thanking Kori and wishing her all the best.